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  • Susan Elaine Jones

I ate body!

Last week I mentioned the great auk in Norwich Museum in their Natural History gallery.

This week I was reminded of a exercise in writing museum labels run by SHARE, which introduced me to the Norwich School of Taxiderm, and the story of Fred Ashton, who didn't let anything go to waste. As the Independent review of the exhibition noted:

Ascension island rail

"Ashton, too, was a character: he famously ate the flesh of the birds he taxidermied, and pencilled on the bits of wood that he used as bases: “I ate body!” This is one of the many mad details, offered by the gallery text, which elevates the exhibition from being a rather dull collection of natural history specimens to a vivid social history. It plays on our sense of the macabre while encouraging us to empathise with the historic plight of birds."

It's a great story. And he's not the only person in history that enjoyed eating everything possible. Early encounters with new animals showed sketches of animals captured for science (and many of those that became extinct). For some reason, they often look like they are running for their lives! Especially the rail family (as I've noted in a previous blog post), but that's what you get for being flightless and tasting:

"more than ordinary dainety meat, relishing like a roasting pigge."

Charles Darwin also tried eating everything he discovered. As so wonderfully illustrated here.

Dinner with Darwin - from NPR

The NPR have a lovely article tracing other scientists who eat their subjects - including a leech expert, recipes for house sparrow drumsticks, a 30,000 year old bison and a paper on a tasting panel of eight types of tadpole.

So, just to say, I'm adding some notes to my "don't accept dinner invitations from these people" list.

Dream dinner party list

Links to who these people are here (in case you need to put together your own party list):

Say yes to:

Dinner with Hannibal Lecter

Bill Bryson (how did he manage to get Robert Redford to play him in the film?)

David Sedaris (he likes to understand owls)

Winston Churchill (for his honest conversation skills)

Jessica Thom (the Tourette's Hero - that will keep the conversation lively!)

And politely decline:

Idi Amin (or Forest Whitaker if Idi is unavailable)

Hannibal Lecter (tasty but tricky for a vegetarian)

Charles Darwin (read the blog above... doh!)

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